Unlacing the entrepreneurial potential: Exploring factors influencing entrepreneurial intention and entrepreneurship education in emerging economies

PhD defence

Ian Keith Alexander


It is often assumed that there is a strong correlation between entrepreneurship and economic development and a global movement to promote entrepreneurial action is quickly gaining momentum. In emerging economies entrepreneurship may be of crucial importance. It is believed that “entrepreneurship is the engine that will push the emerging economies forward as the states of the developing world quickly grow to be major economic forces” (Bruton et al., 2008, p. 2), so it is quite surprising that entrepreneurship remains woefully under-examined in this context. This is problematic due to the situated nature of entrepreneurship. Hence, context-specific studies are necessary to enhance entrepreneurship research and to develop more effective strategies to foster entrepreneurship.

In this dissertation, I mainly focus on the entrepreneurial intentions of university students in an emerging economy context. I address the measurement issue of entrepreneurial intentions in a culturally heterogeneous society, as well as investigate widely held assumptions concerning the antecedents to entrepreneurial intentions, including the role of past entrepreneurial exposure and the influence of human, social and financial capital. These key variables have been hypothesized as having a positive influence on entrepreneurial intentions and have also been used to form the basis of entrepreneurship training intervention programs. Hence, knowledge of their functioning under different contextual conditions is important because it will allow researchers to fine-tune theories and to expand our theoretical understanding of entrepreneurship in general as well as provide practical guidelines for designing entrepreneurship teaching programs.

In Paper 1, I explore the need for context-sensitive measures of entrepreneurial intentions. The study not only shows ethnic tribal differences in entrepreneurial intentions but also that tribal ethnicity moderated the relationship between the proximal variables and entrepreneurial intention; for example, the relationship between perceived behavioral control and entrepreneurial intention. I conclude that researchers should seek to unpack the cultural differences that exist within a society in order to gain more specific and representative measurements of entrepreneurial intentions and, in turn, gain a better understanding of some of the mechanisms through which entrepreneurial intentions are developed.

In Paper 2, I investigate the influence of past entrepreneurial exposure on entrepreneurial intentions. I find a positive relationship between having conducted startup activities and entrepreneurial intentions. In contrast, exposure to family entrepreneurship had a negative association with intentions. The result supports to the argument that it is necessary to focus more on the context of emerging economies in order gain insights that can enhance our understanding of entrepreneurship in emerging economies. Further, it is necessary to adapt theories to reflect the specificity of the setting.

In Paper 3, I review the impact of human, social and financial capital on entrepreneurial intentions. The study shows that, in our setting, human capital has no impact on intentions, social capital has a positive impact, and financial capital is negatively correlated with entrepreneurial intentions. I conclude that while having access to capital may be important for entrepreneurship, the belief and value system of the society has an important bearing on whether these capitals are turned into entrepreneurial activities. For example, financial capital will not transpose into entrepreneurship where entrepreneurship is not a valued socially valued activity. Thus, the study provides further proof of the need to conduct context-specific studies that opens the black box of entrepreneurial intention in emerging economies.

Paper 4 departs from the entrepreneurial intention theme and uses a case study to explore an international curriculum development process spanning six universities across four countries in Africa. Using cultural-historical activity theory as an analytical framework, we explore the context of a curriculum development system and examine the contradictions within this system. The results show that the participatory curriculum process is inhibited by several factors, including difficulties in managing stakeholder relations, inadequate rules and organizational structures and resource deficiency. However, these issues suggest starting points for designing more efficient multi-stakeholders curriculum development activities.

In summary, this dissertation responds to the call in the entrepreneurship literature for researchers to provide more in-depth study of individual emerging economies countries, keeping in mind their distinctive characteristics such as culture, history, munificence of their economies and their economic development paths, among others. It is recognized that there is a need to develop an understanding of these differences and their impacts. Thus, the studies included in this dissertation represent a significant contribution to the entrepreneurship literature and can stimulate discussion among entrepreneurship scholars about how we development measures and promote entrepreneurship within emerging economies.


Carsten Nico Portefee Hjortsø, Associate Professor, IFRO, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Assesment Committee

Tove Enggrob Boon, Associate Professor, IFRO, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Norris Krueger, Professor, University of Phoenix, USA

Kim Klyver, Professor, University of Sothern Denmark, Denmark